Quality teaching, learning crucial to human, societal development, says Oni


Omotola Oni is the Head, Meadow Hall Foundation (MHF), in this interview with ADELOWO ADEBUMITI, he maintained that Nigeria can only realise its developmental goals when it begins to pay adequate attention to the education sector, invest wisely in professional development of teachers and ensure equal access to quality teaching and learning across board. He also talked about the objectives of the 2019 MHF’s education convention and Inspirational Educator Awards (INSEA).

What is Meadow Hall Foundation (MHF) about and what informed its establishment?
Meadow Hall Foundation (MHF) is a non-governmental organisation, which partners with individuals, public and private organisations to implement sustainable initiatives, projects and programmes that support teachers, students, schools, and communities. The vision of MHF is to improve the educational outcomes of the Nigerian Child through enhancing teaching quality, changing mindsets about teaching and advocating for the teaching profession. Over the years, the foundation has impacted 41,850 school pupils, 56 school leaders, and 331 schools, trained 1,395 teachers and adopted 1 school.

When we started in 2009, we wanted to have an impact on the education of the children in the public schools. We wanted to improve their educational outcomes and make sure they get the same opportunities as those children in the private schools, but over the years we have been able to refocus. We realised that we want to help children, but the way to do this is by focusing on the teachers, because they have a direct influence over the students. Meadow Hall Foundation is about developing and empowering teachers. We also focus on teacher advocacy, and raising the profile of education and the teaching profession, whereby people from other professions begin to see education as the most important sector. Teaching is a noble profession; it is a profession that makes others.

You said the vision of MHF is to improve the educational outcomes of the Nigerian child, how do you hope to achieve that?
At MHF, we believe that in order to provide quality education for our children, the standard of teachers cannot be compromised, thus, teachers need more exposure to 21st century best practice. Since 2009, the foundation has been working to provide support to children and teachers through the following initiatives. First, the Graduate Teacher Trainee Programme (GTTP) is a youth empowerment and pre-service teacher training programme which is entirely free but the selection process is extremely thorough. It is part of our nation building initiatives where we develop young graduates for entrance into the education sector.

This is a three-month teacher training and development programme aimed at preparing young and passionate graduates for the classroom. The programme is at no cost to the graduate trainees. Through it graduates are trained with the best teaching practice tools. The programme creates a platform for self-development, exposure to modern educational settings and technology, while they also have the opportunity to become educators partaking in modeling future generations. There is job placement for graduates who are exceptional during the training. As part of their training, these trainees learn about best educational practices and also teach at Meadow Hall and Ilasan Primary School (our adopted school). This programme has an absorption rate of over 96 percent into the education sector. We offer Teacher Professional Development Programme whereby teachers from low-cost private schools and public schools receive free training on the best educational practices and 21st Century teaching and learning methodologies. It helps teachers to get updated with the latest evidence-based strategies in education.

We recently organised a free training for teachers in Kaduna State. We also have the School Adoption Programme (SAP), which is a school improvement programme aimed at providing support (infrastructure, adequate teacher training, teaching aids and educational technology) to public school students and teachers. Our pilot adopted school is Ilasan Primary School in Jakande, Lekki, Lagos State and some of the developmental initiatives that have been carried out there include building of a school fence, training of their teachers, distribution of resource packs, book donations, ongoing library and sick bay projects. These activities have not only improved the quality of teaching in the school, but they have also provided students with better access to educational opportunities. According to the United Nations, there are about 13.2 million out of school children in Nigeria.

Through our Core Centre programme, MHF develops and partners with churches, mosques and other organisations, to provide out of school children a comfort zone where they can have access to acquiring the core academic skills of numeracy, literacy and ICT including vocational skills and civic education. The first centre which kicked off on the 18th of February, 2019, is providing education to at least 35 children. At the moment, the foundation is collaborating with other organisations for the establishment of more Core Centres across the country. We also have Inspirational Educator Awards (INSEA) and Education Convention.

What is the concept behind the Inspirational Educator Awards (INSEA)?
It is aimed at elevating the teaching profession and motivating teachers and school leaders to continue to strive for excellence in their profession. The awardees emerge from a merit-based competition and are rewarded for their commitment and passion. Winners of these prestigious awards are selected based on pre-defined criteria. The award is split into two categories namely the Inspirational Teacher of the Year Award and the Inspirational School Leader of the Year Award. Participation for the award is free and open to Nigerian teachers who teach in public and private primary or secondary schools. It is only Meadow Hall teachers that are not allowed to participate in the award. In the last two years, we have been able to show that a teacher’s reward is not just in heaven; it starts from here. By the time we hold this year’s INSEA, MHF would have awarded thirteen inspirational teachers and school leaders with the sum of thirteen million naira.

Can you share some of the inspirational stories of past INSEA winners as we wait to unveil 2019 champions today?
Inspirational Educator Awards (INSEA) is a merit-based annual award and as a result, all our winners are outstanding and inspirational. Their stories are touching and give inspiration to other educators. Indeed, without passion someone should not go into the teaching profession. Permit me to only share a few stories of winners for school leaders 2017 and 2018. Mrs. Remi Tanimola of Army Children Senior High School, Ikeja, Lagos won the Inspirational School Leader of the year 2017. Tanimola said: “I am passionate about improving on what I do and achieving results. Before the award, it was a lifestyle to assist students in need; my family assisted my ex-student (whose father died at the early stage of SS3) through his university education. Since I emerged the INSEA school leader 2017, I have taken it upon myself to do more to the glory of God.”Mr. Olufemi Folaponmile of Aduvie International School, Abuja won the year 2018 edition.

In his words: “I have continued to provide academic leadership and mentoring to teachers in my school, and elsewhere, which has resulted in better job delivery for these teachers. Since May 2018, when I received the INSEA School Leader of the year, I have been training teachers on various pedagogical practices in education. My goal is to reproduce what I have learned over the years in others so that together we can foster education and by extension, national development in Nigeria.I have also begun a doctoral programme in education and I am proud to say, this was made possible by Meadow Hall Foundation.”

What does the education convention entail and what should be expected at this year’s summit?
The foundation’s education convention provides an opportunity for teachers, school leaders, school owners, parents, government officials, policy-makers and other stakeholders to gain fresh perspectives on pertinent educational issues from their interactions with experts and various stakeholders. This is the third edition. The theme for this year’s convention is Accelerating National Development Through Education. It promises to be a refreshing opportunity to discuss national development through education. The convention comprises keynote address, panel discussions, workshop, networking and professional interactions. Some of the topics to be discussed include Optimising Students’ Achievement through Formative Assessment, Preparing for Disruptive Teaching, Features of an Outstanding School, Leveraging on Digital Marketing to Promote Your School, Cyber Safety, Parental Control in the Digital Space, Improved Access to Quality Teaching and Learning, and Closing the Achievements Gap in Education. The education convention is set to hold today, Saturday, 4th of May 2019 from 8am to 5pm at the Landmark Event Centre in Victoria Island, Lagos. To learn more, please visit https://meadowhallfoundation.org/education-convention-registration/

What influenced the theme for this year’s education convention?
The year 2019 is a landmark year for the country. It is a year of election when, through our votes, we will reinforce our commitment towards our common cause of national development. At MHF, we believe strongly that education is a tool for societal development. These influenced the theme for this year.

What are you doing differently from the previous editions?
A major part of this year’s convention is the Inspirational Educator Awards (INSEA). This award which recognises inspirational educators has been held independently for 2 years, but this year we are holding it as part of the convention. This year, we are not only recognising and awarding inspirational teachers and school leaders. Also, we will be presenting awards to individuals who have significantly contributed to the enhancement of qualitative education in the country.

Why is it that in spite of several conventions, the sector problem still persists?
Positive change does not come easy. The conventions are making a lot of impact, which may not be conspicuous at the moment. The gains of education as we know, would always take a while to be visible. However, as we keep the conversation going, proffering solutions to the problems in the sector, over time, we will have traction and get to the tipping point for change. At that point the impact becomes obvious. Consistency of these conventions will ultimately bring about the transformation needed in the sector.There seems to be a lot of challenges around the nation’s education system, what could be done to reposition the sector and make it competitive?

Nigeria has three critical challenges; these are lack of energy (electric power), leadership challenge and inaccessibility to quality education which is the most critical. If we can get education right, then every other thing would fall in place. Education is our main tool for human capital development. This begins from ensuring and being intentional about access to quality learning by our citizens, the encouragement of lifelong learning. This cannot be achieved without looking at the quality of our educators because the quality of your educators determines the quality of your education. Any nation that does not prioritize the professional and personal development of teachers is set to wallow in mediocrity and underdevelopment. The creation of an enabling environment, motivation and opportunities for the qualitative training and professional development of teachers are the basic elements for the achievement of productivity and competitiveness in the Nigeria education system. Also, government should adopt the Public Private Partnership (PPP) model which has relatively been successful in general infrastructural development in the country; this could be a way forward for the education sector.

What is your message to teachers and other educational stakeholders in Nigeria?
Teachers, you are role models. At this time in the history of our nation and continent, we need you most. In the words of J. F Kennedy, “Our progress as a nation can be no swifter than our progress in education.” The outcome of our future depends on you. The quality of our educators determines the quality of our education; the quality of our education determines the quality of our children. We all depend on you, and you deserve our support and appreciation. Do not give up, put in your best to this divine calling, and improve professionally. Be rest assured that in heaven lies a great reward for you, but on this earth you will also be well compensated and appreciated. “What you make happen for others, God will make happen for you.” At Meadow Hall Foundation, we got your back.

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